American Airlines left my luggage in the rain but won’t cover damage

Alexandra Wensley’s odds of getting American Airlines to cover her laundry bill were better than average.

The circumstances of her claim seemed to be pretty outrageous, for starters. On a recent flight from Miami to London, the airline lost her luggage for two full days and destroyed six expensive garments, she says.

Wensley also appeared to handle her grievance by the book, sending a brief, polite email to the airline asking to be reimbursed.

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And one more thing: Wensley is the director of communications for two luxury hotel properties, so she knows how to make her point.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also tried to help her, contacting American on her behalf.

It didn’t matter. American rejected the case.

What went wrong? Maybe you can help me figure that out.

Wensley’s outbound flight was uneventful until she was told her luggage had gone missing, she says.

When my luggage finally arrived to the hotel, my suitcase and its contents were all soaking wet.

I discovered later that my suitcase was left out in the rain at the Miami Airport. Six of my garments were destroyed.

This all took place at midnight on the second day of my trip when I needed to leave the hotel at 6 a.m. to head to my next business destination in Paris.

She sent a claim to American Airlines for cleaning the garments that could be saved and replacing the ones that couldn’t. The total came to $2,071.

(I’m no expert on women’s clothing, but I know that when it comes to the bill, the fewer questions asked, the better. And so, for the record, let me say that I am not questioning this invoice in any way.)

American Airlines responded by sending her a check for $367 and the following explanation:

The check represents compensation for the emergency purchases you were required to make during the period that your baggage was delayed.

Our records indicate that your baggage was returned to you my the end of the night on October 18. Purchases after that date are not reimburseable.

Hmm, the limit of liability under the Montreal Convention is considerably higher. And the Transportation Department tends to support a more consumer-friendly interpretation of the agreement.

American added:

Damaged baggage (and contents) must be presented to an American Airlines airport location within 30 days of its receipt in order to be considered for compensation.

Wensley is baffled by that requirement.

“I thought this was absolutely crazy,” she says. “I was supposed to take a taxi at midnight to the Heathrow Airport with my wet luggage and pay 200 pounds for the round-trip transfer? I needed to get my belongings sorted immediately, and be ready for a flight to Paris six hours later.”

I agree that it would have been impossible to comply immediately with American’s policy, and since the luggage was left in the rain while under the airline’s care, it should be responsible for the damage.

But American should have informed her of its claims requirements when it lost her suitcase, and she would have had plenty of time after her trip to file a by-the-book claim, if not in Paris then back in Miami. It appears that American didn’t tell her about the 30-day rule.

I contacted American on her behalf. Unfortunately, it didn’t respond to my inquiry. So it looks as if Wensley is stuck with the bill.

She says she’ll think twice before checking a bag again. I would, too.

170 thoughts on “American Airlines left my luggage in the rain but won’t cover damage

  1. A quick reading of the American Airlines international General Rules Tariff seems to indicate that Ms. Wensley is correct and American Airlines is wrong. Rule 55(D)(3) reads, in relevant part, as follows.

    “Upon carrier’s agreement to accept a damage claim, the damage acknowledgement form provided by the carrier, and the damaged property, must be presented to the carrier for repair within thirty (30) days from the date the damage acknowledgement form is furnished by the carrier to the passenger.”

    I assume that Ms. Wensley filed an initial report (e.g., telephoning the carrier) with American Airlines. The criteria for American Airlines liability are outlined in Rule 55(C), and upon receipt of the initial report American could have then either “accepted” the damage claim, or denied it, leaving Ms. Wesley to pursue her claim in court. If accepted, American would have then become liable for sending a damaged acknowledgement form to Ms. Wesley, and she would have then had 30 days from the time she was sent the form (not from the date of the flight) to present it to American along with the damaged property.

    Now if American denied her claim, as it appears to have done, then Ms. Wensley has 2 years to sue American. To do so she would have to have fulfilled the prerequisites for doing so (e.g., Rule 55(D)(2) requires that she would have had to make an initial report to the carrier within 7 days of receiving the baggage . . . not necessarily bringing it to American, but at least telephoning American).

    But American’s claim that damaged baggage must be presented to an American Airlines airport location within 30 days of its receipt appears to have no basis in its tariff.

    1. It is my understanding that the US DOT has always held a position that for International Flights, the Montreal Convention trumps anything that the airline can say in their Contract of Carriage. Next stop for Ms. Wensley is small claims court and sue for compensation under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention.

      1. Regardless of which terms are applied, it appears that American Airlines was wrong, and the carrier had no basis in law to take the position it did. Chris did not report that American Airlines pointed to any particular provision of either the tariff or the convention in its response to Ms. Wensley. That, to me, seems to be a big clue that the person writing the response was just making things up.

        It seems to me that commercial aviation, more so than other industries, is filled with employees who simply make up rules out of thin air. Whether it is this incident, flight attendants booting off nursing mothers, or otherwise, I think many airline employees have a sense of power and impunity to do as they wish, regardless of the law (and in the case of flight attendants, the airline employees threaten passengers with arrest should passengers resist their unlawful orders).

        Perhaps if more people sued airlines, the carriers would cease their illegal activities. But if passengers simply acquiesce to everything the carriers do, then the airlines are just continue abusing passengers.

  2. If she spent that much money on clothes, she should’ve had a better suitcase. Hardback, waterproof…something. I travel with specialty items sometimes: scuba gear and (on occasion) one of my weapons. Even when my scuba bag was left out in the rain, it has never been wet inside.

    She deserves to be compensated for the delay (and hopefully any bag fees she paid) but trumping up the cost to nearly $3K?

    Sounds fishy to me.

    1. Even a good Hartmann bag left in the rain long enough soaks through – I know British Airways did a similar thing to me, but they handled it very differently.  Two bags were delayed on my return home a few years ago and arrived several days later soaked through and the lighter one somehow dropped so a copper pot I bought in Paris was bent.  The rep listened to my report on the phone and sent a check very quickly.  I was not traveling with business clothes but it was still $1,200 and they paid with no question.  The rep knew the bag had been lost and probably had a good idea why it was so wet. Good suits or dresses, shoes and nice blouses would easily have been over $2,000.  Wensley is an executive for a hotel traveling to London and Paris, she was not wearing torn blue jeans.  Replacing clothes adds up far more quickly than just buying one outfit at a time, not time to shop for bargains.

    2. that’s not fair at all.  Just because she has clothes that cost a great deal doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be compensated because “she should have had a better suitcase”.  How about NONE of the luggage of ANY type should have been left outside? 
      Six outfits could easily tally up to $3K if they are designer/name brand.  This woman is a higher up at a luxury hotel company attending meetings in Europe, she’s likely not wearing Ann Taylor Loft.

      1. I don’t see how that’s not fair.  It’s become common knowledge that baggage can get lost/damaged/destroyed.  If someone is going to shell out thousands of dollars for fancy cloths, why not get a better bag to protect them?

        1. Maybe she was using designer luggage (like louis vuitton or something similar).  

          I travel with a backpack regardless of what kind og trip I’m going on.  I’ve packed nice “going to a wedding” clothes in there and hiking clothes (rarely at the same time but’s it’s happened before).  Just because I use a backpack (which by the way cost me a few hundred dollars) doesn’t mean it’s not a good bag.

          1. And I would bet your backpack is probably water proof.  And you probably don’t check it either.  I would consider many backpacks to be good bags.  I don’t know it Lois Viton bags are waterproof, but if they are not, then they are sort of useless for travel.   I just strolled over to the Louis Vitton website and can’t find anything about them being waterproof, but I also couldn’t find a rollaboard bag under $3,000.  Talk about putting fashion before function.  If someone spends $3,000 on a bag that won’t even protect their belongings… Fill in the blank.

          2. You’d be wrong on pretty much everything.My backpack has been sprayed with waterproofing many times but when US Airways left it out in the rain everything got soaked through.  Then it all mildewed because they didn’t deliver it for 4 days. 

            I almost always check it because of the whole 3oz liquids issue and because I hate lugging it around the airport.  I carry it on only when I cannot figure a way around the luggage fees.  LV bags are usually leather so no, not waterproof.  They will however, usually last for years and years and years.  A friend of mine travels with a LV bug that her mother bought decades ago.     

          3. I still don’t get LV luggage.  I know it’s nice and all, but it says to me “I’ve got something worth stealing.”

          4. Or it says, “I really hope you and everyone else who sees me thinks I’ve got something to steal.” Not because you want your bag stolen but because you just crave that status.

          5. The only real “waterproofing” would involve spraying or heat-bonding an impermeable plastic membrane.

            Any of those water repellent sprays have their limits. I’ve got “breathable membrane” clothing that carries a water repellent finish that eventually wears off and can be reapplied.  Even with a fresh treatment it has its limits where the water repellency fails and the fabric soaks through.  The waterproof membrane (like Gore-Tex) is waterproof, but then it stops breathing and water vapor from sweat starts condensing inside.

            If you really want something waterproof, there are dry sacks and truly waterproof backpacks.  They look really ugly though, since they’re plastic coated and some look like rain slickers.

          6. You’re blaming the OP because she checked luggage?  I might agree with you if she checked certain items such as watches, jewelery, computers, etc.  But checking a bag filled with regular  clothes is the very definition of what should be checked

          7. Okay, I guess I do sound a little silly.  I don’t mean to blame the OP for checking luggage.  I was just supporting Ravens statement that if you have something very expensive, it’s better to protect it.  In my mind her cloths are over the top expensive.  So is the LV bag debated above.

          8. Having sold LV luggage, I can tell you that I wouldn’t own any of that overpriced garbage.

          9. Well – I’ve got a backpack that could withstand a torrential downpour without the contents getting terribly wet. The fabric is urethane sealed and you can definitely feel it.  I don’t think it could survive being dunked in water though.  It’s really meant for rain while it’s kept upright.

            I’ve got other backpacks and daypacks with coated covers.  One has a cover built in and accessed from a compartment pouch.  It literally can’t be removed because it’s sewn in.  One daypack I own came with a waterproof (at least in rain) cover that can be tossed in a compartment and pulled out if needed.

            As for absolutely keeping stuff dry, there are dry sacks.  REI has lots of them.  One could easily just keep stuff that absolutely can’t get wet in there and toss the whole thing in a piece of luggage if one doesn’t want to look like someone going on a mountain expedition.


          10. I use ZipLoc bags.  I have to look hard, but a 2 gallon ZipLoc is fantastic, keeps things dry and helps compress for small spaces.  Did that when I went to Europe.  But the OP isn’t going on a 2 week backpacking trip; she’s going to conduct business.  Hard to fit business clothes into a ZipLoc. 

        2. Who’s going to be the suitcase police and determine if my bag matches the high standards required to carry expensive clothing?   I’ve never seen a suitcase that claimed to be submersible and if it was left outside for hours in a heavy downpour that’s basically what would be required. 

          And the actual cost of the her damaged clothing is immaterial in this case because they gave her ZERO to cover the damages. The $367 was for emergency purchases when the bags were lost. Even if her clothes weren’t worth $3K, I’m pretty confident they were worth more than zero.

          1. Okay, suitcase aside.  As I stated below, she could have had her damaged items paid for if she had brought them to any airport with an AA baggage office to have them examined.  It says this right on the lost bag page on AAs website.

          2. If her clothes were worth a lot more than $1500 (approximately 1,000 SDRs, the max. liability according to the Montreal Convention) then why didn’t she make a special declaration at check in?

            The lady works for a super 5-star luxury hotel, shouldn’t she know how to travel and protect one’s luxurious belongings?

            Even if AA is guilty as charged, she can’t get more than the 1131 SDR stipulated in AA’s COC (which is higher than the legal maximum limitation).

            I have a feeling the reason why AA is not paying up is because her claim is not strong enough.

          3. I suspect its because if these are her normal clothing she’s not thinking of them as special.  Unlike jewelry, computers, etc.  When I pack my bags, I don’t do a mental calculation of the costs of clothes.

          4. This case should be a wake up call for those flying INT’L. If you think your luggage is valued more than $1750, make a special declaration when you check in.

        3. Let’s not blame the victim. Any bag can get lost damaged or destroyed regardless of the material.  Also, as an exec she probably regularly travels with expensive clothing such that this is normative for her.  I doubt if these clothes are special in her line of work that would make her take extra care.

          1. And if the airline had damaged my scuba gear, they’d claim “speciality item no compensation.”

            Another question is HOW NEW were the clothes. Everything depreciates. It wouldn’t be fair for her to claim $3K worth of clothes that are over a year old, no matter how expensive they were when she purchased.

          2. Just wondering, when was the last time you bought clothes? Even midgrade items are pricey these days. I don’t have a closet full of expensive clothing, but it wouldn’t take me long to put a few things together to hit a $3K pricetag.

        4. A man’s wool suit is $600+ is that fancy?  We are talking an average of $345 each compared to my business suits which cost more.  Even Hiliary Clinton’s dress suits cost more then $345

      2. It doesn’t have to be left outside for a fortnight to get wet. A torrential downpour and a 10 minute wait during the loading/offloading process are all it takes.

    3.  Wow, let me share my easily solution to this. Go buy Ziploc Big Bags (Bolsas Grandes en Espanol) at Walmart. There are 3 sizes – Large, Extra Large (XL) and Extra-Extra Large. The XXL Heavy Duty size (3 bags per box) will fit inside a typical 26″ luggage.

      Sort your clothes & shoes and put then inside these Big Bags. Take as much of the air out and seal them – the bags have Double Zippers! Now you have waterproof and air tight sealed bags!

      For extra protection lay an empty Big Bag flat inside the suitcase. Your suitcase may get soaked or wet but your clothes and belongings will stay dry. My whole family has been doing this for many years. I learned my lesson a long time ago when we went to a small island that required a boat ride. The boat was a tiny (native variety) outrigger. A wave from a larger boat hit us and the water splashed inside. Everything and everyone got wet. That was so much fun 🙂

      1. I often do this so my clothes stay neatly folded in case the TSA opens the luggage.  Bags are transparent so no need to handle the garments.

        Ziploc Big Bags saved my clothes and knitting projects when SouthWest spilled jet fuel on my bag.   Those plastic bags are tough!  Ruined the duffle bag because there was no way to get the smell out, tried professional cleaning and it still reaked.  Their luggage consultant agreed as well and he did not get to sniff until ten days after the cleaning.   SouthWest paid full price to replace my bag – it was a particular kind of messenger / duffle – so they were quite honorable in the resolution.  Paid for the cleaning attempts and the Fedex to ship them the nasty bag too as well.  There was no denying what had happened to that bag!  No one seems to know how it happened  but jet fuel is unmistakable!

      2. I have heard of this from other travelers and think it is an excellent tip regardless of where you are traveling to or from. 

        1. Why don’t you work or visit a ramp area and find out WHY things like this happens. Yeah it’s shitty work and bags get left out when everything happens all at the same time. Workers get overloaded when it rains, snows, ices, etc…

    4. Oh, Raven, you know I love you but I have to respectfully disagree with your opinion on this one.  (And I’m still waiting for that snarkfest at a Starbucks – one near a Walmart so we can be in a target rich environment)

      People should be able to travel with whatever suitcase they want and should be able to pack in said suitcase whatever they wish.  Once it’s handed over to the airline at a steep rate of carriage, they should be the ones responsible.

      If you borrowed clothes from someone, let’s say an expensive sweater, and it got dirty and/or damaged while you had it, you as a moral person would offer to fix/clean/replace said garment.  I also don’t believe it’s a moral obligation but a legal one as well (but I’m not an attorney, however I know there are some on here) and were the loaner to take you to small claims to replace said garment, at the very least to reimburse them for the cleaning/repair, etc. I believe they would prevail, regardless of the cost.

      1. I honestly think you are misinterpreting Raven’s [commonsensical] position. In real life, Raven is 100% correct. Simply look through (outside) the windows of your airport as you wait to board your flight. Your bags are loaded by hand in trolleys and then unloaded (again by hand) into narrow belts that go up the belly of the airplane. (This is reversed when you arrive at your destination.) If it rains or snows, your bag will get wet. Observe further that some trolleys are stationary since they are waiting for the other trolleys to be emptied or loaded. During that delay, your bags can get more wet.

        Sure you can blame the airline for your clothes getting wet; or your bag getting mishandled since the bag tag is too dirty or wet to get scanned correctly at the sorting belts. But you have a BRAIN. And your brain can be used to think – what can I do to prevent my clothes from getting wet. How about a waterproof bag or a plastic bag to seal your clothes?

        Your handle suggests that you might do a lot of Exploration. I would think you know what waterproof bags are all about.

        1. And this would be an example of DISrespectfully disagreeing with someone.

          Tony, would you please just ignore me?  It would make both our lives easier and it would prevent my jumping on here just to tell you what a jerk you’re being. (not always, just lately, and directed primarily at me for DARING to point out to you you’ve been a jerk once)

          So, please – just ignore me.  Thanks…

          1. Oh so you must be Nancy D.? I didn’t recognize your new handle and picture. Added both of you to my ignore list 🙂

          2. I think Tony is making a good point.  Think ahead about the what if’s in your travel planning.  Yes, we should have expectations of the carrier in the handling of our bags, but we responsibility in how we pack and what we pack.

          3. I”ve been traveling for almost 40 years.  I have never once had my bags get wet.  I’ve had them lost, I’ve had them found on the runway, etc, but never left out in the rain. Accordingly, it would never have occurred to me that was a realistic concern.

          4. I had my bag get wet in LAX but not soaking.  Some regional carriers have you take your bags out to the tarmac and place them on a gurney where they sit until loaded, uncovered.  Same for unloading.  In Vegas, I had sand all over my bag due to the wind while sitting on the tarmac as I was deplaining.  In humid climates your contents get damp and musty, often very damp if you use soft sided luggage.   

          5. Then consider yourself lucky Carver. Sometimes even if it does not rain, the condensation (especially when you go to a humid country) is enough to your nice clothes stinky and moist. But then again you’re from LAX and I’m from JFK. You have good weather all year. We have snow, ice and rain.

          6. I’ve never had a soaked bag either, but I’ve seen the poor luggage handlers loading a plane during a torrential downpour more than once. And I’ve also had to use my umbrella to get from gate-bus to plane or vice versa in a somewhat dry state. Basically, rain happens…

          7. Actually, Tony doesn’t make a good point due to it being peppered with name calling but…

            When I pack, I will put things in ziploc bags such as lotion, hair product, etc. so in the likely event it bursts open at 35,000 feet it won’t get all over my clothes.

            In the past, I have packed my bag with various things in a ziploc bag and have had TSA rip the bag open (Hello – it’s a ziploc bag!) to search what was inside. I lost 10 pair of unmentionables that way – God only knows why they needed 10 pairs of ladie’s unmentionables.

          8. Completely uncalled for, rude and offensive.  This is reprehensible and deserves an apology.

      2. Snarkfest!!! It will happen someday!

        I agree, but I’ve also seen people invent costs for things. I’m wondering how old the clothes were as well. If they still had the tags on them, okay, fine, she’s due something. If she’s had them for a year, well…everything depreciates.

        I’m still waiting for a real explanation from my GF as to why she “needed” $2300 shoes. She just tells me it’s a woman thing and that since I spend crazy amounts of money on scuba stuff and electronics to get over it. But to me, those are useful, speciality items. Shoes? You can get shoes at Kohls for $20! 

        Ah well, I’ll never get it….and I still love her.

        1. As woman, Raven, let me explain it to you…  We women just kind of want to have “something” that screams “I have money” and we feel better when we wear the “something”. We walk a little taller, the twins are a little perkier and our “glow” is bright and strong.

          Let her have her $2300 shoes but, if she loses them from her suitcase, just give her that knowing look that says, I love you, honey, but that was a really dumb move…

        2. Re: I’m still waiting for a real explanation from my GF as to why she “needed” $2300 shoes… Shoes? You can get shoes at Kohls for $20!

          Raven, you need to take your GF to the uber luxurious hotel the OP works for – Mandarin Oriental at rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. She will need those $2300 shoes.Sorry, you scuba gear and waterproof suitcase might cause a stir in the lobby if you check in with them. 🙂

      3.  In addition to being able to travel with whatever they want and expect everything to work perfectly, I also think that people should be able to control the weather.
        But that’s just me.

      4. Unfortunately, the legal responsibility isn’t as HIGH a cost as you might think – most of the fanicer luggage exceeds the payout, and that doesn’t even consider the contents!

    5. Just as a precaution (more against spills on my bag than it being left in the rain,) I put everything in a large, thick plastic trash bag before it goes into a bag I’m going to check.

    6. where are you buying your business suits? Kmart? or Walmart? Mine cost more then $345 each that is for sure. My hardcase luggage is still not waterproof when left in hard driven rain for an hour.

    7. I do note that hard-sided luggage is coming back into vogue.   They had almost disappeared for a while.  However, suppose a hard-sided bag was totally immersed in water, wouldn’t the contents still be damaged?  A far-fetched eventuality, I know, but still within the bounds of possibility.

    8.  Exactly my thought. From the sounding, the clothes were dry clean only and rather expensive. I would go out of my way to either use a water proof suitcase or place the garments in garbage bags. As a kid, I would put my walkman in zip lock bags in case it rained!

    9. The woman is Director of Communications for two luxury hotel chains.  I’m sure she needs to dress the part. Six garments were destroyed, plus dry cleaning costs.  Even if you divide 6 into $2,000 comes to $333 per garment. Have you priced a good suit lately? I’m surprised it wasn’t more.

  3. So I always thought the airlines had to inspect lost baggage within 24 hours, and always wondered what happens if it’s delayed and she gets it late?  Does she then have 24 hours to get back to the airport?  It’s good to hear she has 30 days, that makes it much simpler.  I have had two bags destroyed by the airlines, (One was an equipment malfunction when the new DEN first opened, and one was run over by a baggage cart at IND).  In both cases they immediately compensated me what I thought was a very fare amount.  And in both of these cases I was traveling in discount economy and didn’t have any status on those airlines. What surprised me was the baggage office pulled out clothing chart and assessed a replacement value based on the type of clothing that was damaged and cut me a check on the spot.  I was quite impressed and thought their assed value to be generous.
    I do have to agree with Raven, always buy water proof bags.  I had a bag left out on the tarmac for 8 hours in ORD once, or so I was told by the delivery guy.  The bag was delivered to me the next day and it was soaking wet, yet my contents were dry as a bone.  And this isn’t an expensive bag, this is an Atlantic bag I got ta Macys for $80.
    Now what I really don’t understand is why Ms. Wensley is not willing to bring her damaged items to the airport for inspection, especially if she has 30 days?  If someone wanted me to pay $2,071 in claims to them, I would want to see the damage in person. I understand her not going immediately, but she has 30 days.  She could go to the airport on her return trip an hour early and it’s hardly inconvenient.  Also, correct me if I am wrong, but 200 Euro cab fare?  That seems a little steep, is that a cab, or private limo?  It’s been 2 years since I went to Europe, but I don’t remember paying anything close to that.
    I think that AA should be 100% liable for her dry cleaning bill, and the depreciated value of the clothes she had to replace.  And I also think they should refund her checked bag fees, and give her something extra as an apology.  But I also think they have the right to inspect her belongings to verify that she is truly out $2,071.  I don’t know how any one would expect them to simply take her word for it.  30 days is ample time to get her bag inspected, especially if she is going back to the airport anyway.

    1. “It appears that American didn’t tell her about the 30-day rule.”  last line third paragraph from end

      She could have gotten the bag inspected if she knew that was a requirement. 

      As for the cab fare, my guess is that she was staying somewhere not very close to the airport.  A ride of an hour or more adds up.  Even in New England,  the fare would be that high if I had to take a cab to the airport from home.

      1. That line totally contradicts the portion that states:
        “Wensley is baffled by that requirement.
        ‘I thought this was absolutely crazy,” she says. “I was supposed to take a taxi at midnight to the Heathrow Airport with my wet luggage and pay 200 pounds for the round-trip transfer? I needed to get my belongings sorted immediately, and be ready for a flight to Paris six hours later.’”

        1. I read the article as she was notified about the showing the luggage at the airport requirement once they had denied her claim.  That even if she HAD been notified of the need to show her luggage at Heathrow it would have been costly and hard to do given she received her luggage at midnight and was leaving to go to Paris at 6am. 

          1. Then how did she file her claim? Because right on the AA website damaged baggage page, it states in large print:

            The damaged article(s) needs to be presented for inspection at the airport where AA personnel are responsible for the final resolution of your damage claim.

            There is no winning. If she wasn’t told she couldn’t do it, but even if she was, it was too costly or too hard to do. So basically, she won’t take any responsibility. I do think she should have been reimbursed, but I also think she should have made a little effort in the process.

          2. Perhaps she sent a letter because getting back to the airport where the personnel are responsible was impossible?  Which airport was responsible?  The one she flew out of in the US or Heathrow?  IF she had taken a very expensive cab ride in the middle of the night to Heathrow would the luggage office have been open (my guess is no)? 

            What is a passenger supposed to do in this sort of instance?  She got her luggae at midnight and was leaving the next morning.  One would think that the airline would understand that it should not be the customer’s responsibility to jump through hoops when the AIRLINE screws up. 

          3. It says that AA personnel are responsible for the resolution of her claim.  Not that she must go to the airport that was responsible for the damage.  She didn’t have to jump through hoops, or go in the middle of the night; she had 30 days to go to any AA baggage office.
            Yes AA screwed up, yes they should pay, but she isn’t giving them the opportunity to inspect a loss she wants them to pay.

          4. Right before the snippet you quoted it says:

            All damage claims should be filed in person with an AA representative prior to leaving the airport.

            That whole section covers baggage that arrives damaged at the airport baggage claim.  It’s completely nonsensical to apply that to delayed, damaged baggage that was drop-shipped to a hotel.

            @LFH0:disqus already cited the relevant passage from the AA’s contract:

            Upon the carrier’s agreement to accept a damage claim, the damage acknowledgement form provided by the carrier and the damaged property must be presented to the carrier for repair within thirty days from the date the damage acknowledgement form is furnished by the carrier to the passenger.

            Did AA ever provide the passenger with a damage acknowledgement form??

        2. I read that as her perplexed reaction to the denial from AA – an after-the-fact recognition. (But it didn’t have to be Heathrow, though).

    2. She states the taxi would have been 200 POUNDS not Euros.   And yes it is very easy to spend that much round trip on a standard taxi ride from London to Heathrow these days.  Since she is an important high ranking business person, I guess other much more affordable options didn’t appeal to her (train, tube, bus).

      1.  Midnight in London (or anywhere else) is no time to even think about anything but taxi transportation.  Yes, it could cost 200 pounds to round trip to the airport however no one would have been there to help her.  AA is simply wrong and playing the waiting game and wishing this will go away like most claims.  She should file a formal complaint and also sue. 

  4. She had 30 days to show her damaged items to someone at an airport.  Why didn’t she do this when she returned from Europe?  Unless the rejection note was sent to her after the 30 day period.

    Also, were the damaged items new?  If they had been worn a few times, the depreciated value may not have come to the amount she paid to replace them.  Also, doesn’t she have some form of insurance that the loss could be filed against?  Not necessarily trip insurance, but I have been told homeowners insurance will sometimes cover losses of this type.

    1. Mark you take the wet items to the airport with you!

      When your Levi jeans are damaged and need to be replaced and you have to pay $40 to replace them to be in the same position that you were in befroe teh damage should they be depreciated?

      1. Guess you don’t watch any of the Judge shows 🙂 or have dealt with an insurance company.  Depreciation is part of the game. 

      2. Look at it this way, if your two year old Levi jeans are destroyed and it costs you $40 to replace them, now you have new jeans which will presumably last two years longer than the older jeans.  So if you get a full $40, you are actually in a better position as you have extended the life of you jeans by 2 years.

    2. What I don’t get, is why not arrive EARLIER for the flight to Paris, and put in the claim before checking in?  She could of at least had someone start the ball rolling, and they could have had clear documentation of the problem.

  5. Seems like this is a no-brainer for small claims court. I predict as soon as Ms. Wensley files the lawsuit, an attorney from American will be on the phone with a settlement offer.

    1. No they will not.  They will not show up in court and will lose by default.  she will then have to go collect her win.

  6. This is the reason I always buy travel insurance. It’s faster to make a claim, definitely reasonable and headache free.

      1. After reading all the horror stories on here where very clear cut cases were denied–verifiable stuff like the person couldn’t actually make the trip–I find it hard to believe a $3K bill for damaged clothes would be easy to recover. I’m imagining things like original receipts being required, mountains of documentation, and then even if the claim wasn’t denied outright they’d decide to only pay a tiny fraction of the cost because the clothing wasn’t brand new.  Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my guess as to how this case would go.

        1. AA probably knows where a case like this will go. That’s why they ignored the rest of the additional claims and sent a check for $367.

          A lot of savvy business travelers have their secretaries FedEx their attires ahead to their luxurious hotels or offices. They know that FedEx will handle an express priority package better than the airline. They also know ahead of time that their package is already there safe and sound so they don’t have to carry much on the flight.

          I’m surprise Ms. Wensley didn’t Fedex her expensive clothes. I thought she worked with rich people.

          1. I’ve used overnight services to send luggage to my destination and represent many clients who do that regularly. Its not about protecting expensive clothes.  It all about guaranteeing that the items will be there at the time and place promised.  Remember, to these folks, the so called expensive clothes are just clothes.  No executive thinks that $350 suites are expensive clothes.

        2. You might be surprised – I’ve had clothes damaged/lost due to a damaged bag, and the insurance covered with minimal fuss – but I have ALSO returned damaged luggage at the airport, only to have them handnew bags returned with a simple signature.

    1. Good luck reading the 31-page contract for travel insurance, plus its own set of unique legal definitions.  

      1. The American Express Card travel insurance that you can set up automatically is pretty good for luggage delay. Several folks in my office use it and they love it.

        1. This is automatic coverage for Amex Platinum cards and in included for “free.”  It is good “excess” coverage for checked baggage up to $2,000.  However, most times when people advocate “travel insurance” they are referring to the ubiquitous product at the end of buying an airline ticket, or offered separately by a travel agent.  

    2. Have you had occaision to use the travel insurance?  And did the process go smoothly?  I’d love to hear that someone was satisfied with a travel insurance claim, because I have only heard about the problems.

      1. I had a great experience with Access America on my Honeymoon.  The night of our wedding at 11:30pm my Travel Agent(aka my mother) bought the insurance because it looked like a hurricane was headed towards Aruba.  We were supposed to depart the next morning at 1000 out of RIC airport.
        Sure enough if our flight didn’t get cancelled and we wouldn’t be able to leave for 2 more days.  My mom rerouted us to Puerto Rico for those 2 days instead.

        Access America paid for the flight change to PR and eventually to Aruba, the two nights in Puerto Rico, and our cab fair in PR to and from the Airport.  The only thing that AA didn’t cover was our food while in PR because they stated we would’ve needed to eat anyways had we made it to our destination.

        This single experience with them, regardless of how many horror stories I’ve read, will keep me coming back to them anytime my family and I invest in a large trip…

      2. I have, yes, and I’ve never had an issue with my claims.

        That said, I also do everything I possibly can to make it easier for myself. I follow the rules, even if the rules are stupid. If there’s a 30 day limit, I file within those 30 days – nevermind that some superior convention gives me 42 days. I keep receipts, I don’t make $200 trans-Atlantic phone calls, I don’t try to sneak in a $500 ski jacket in my delayed luggage claim… basically, I keep it reasonable.   

      3. Duh!  🙂  That’s what this whole site is about – the times they go wrong!  I’ve been a travel agent for 20+ years, and have had MANY successful claims (including my own).  From lost/delayed/damaged baggage (and contents), to lost or stolen items, trip delays, even just finding a hotel “not up to standards” for a few.  It just depends on what you choose, and that is how I can help my clients.

  7. Small Claim court still an option. It’s damage claim not only delay. She entitle both claim, delay and damage.
    Plus, she can claim with her own home insurer and let the home insurer deal with the airlines Insurer. My home insurer cover lost and damage during my travel.

  8. I think this is the start of an alarming trend with companies. They simply won’t respond. Why respond to things that are going to cost you money. They already have our money, so no point in taking the time to respond to complaints where they have to give some back. What are we going to do? It’s not like you can ever find them and confront them face to face like in a restaurant or store setting. So they sit in their corporate office protected from any contact, so there’s no incentive vs. working in an airport and having someone scream in your face or cry, etc. What are we going to do, not fly? All domestic legacy carriers are pretty much to the point of being equal, so there isn’t much more to do except hope they get it right the next time you fly.

      1. “I [Chris] contacted American on her behalf. Unfortunately, it didn’t respond to my inquiry. So it looks as if Wensley is stuck with the bill.”

        1. Is Chris the passenger? No. AA probably does not think he is a party to this case. Maybe a lawyer would be better.

          1. You really expect they would respond to another inquiry if only it came directly from the passenger?  I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts to the contrary.

            Usually Chris’ involvement gets non-responsive businesses to (at least) respond.  Not the opposite effect.

          2. Michael, do you think AA did not know who they were dealing with? The lady works for Mandarin Oriental. If they didn’t give a damn about a person who sells 20,000 EUR a night suites in Paris, why should they give a damn about anyone here in this site? We have no effect on AA.

          3. That’s part of AA’s calculation. IMO AA is one of the shrewdest ones out there. They are no dummy.

  9. This happened to me on Southwest.  The contents of my suitcase (which was water resistant) were soaking wet, including a digital camera.  When I called Southwest they were rude, and denied that my bag was out in the rain uncovered.  They claimed water can get in through the cover they use and the extent of their responsibility was to put the cover on and weren’t responsible if anything still got wet.

    I told them with everything soaking wet, I doubt it was covered at all.  They said well if I didn’t actually see it uncovered I have no proof that it was uncovered so they were still not responsible.

    1. Good advice but even that isn’t foolproof. If TSA checks your bag, nothing is going to end up back in the plastic bags. You’re lucky if everything ends up back in the suitcase period.

      1. Make sure those bags are transparent. Keep the electronic, cords, etc. separate. The neater the bag the better.

  10. “Trumping up the cost to nearly $3K”. She is the director of communications for two hotel properties. As an executive, I would guess she dresses nicely and buys higher end clothing. She had to have all of her other garments dry cleaned, replace her toiletries and make-up, and purchase clothing for two days. I don’t think that was trumping up her bill at all. American Airlines should take responsibility for the actions of their ramp crew for leaving her luggage in the rain, making her have to purchase two days worth of personal needs, two days worth of clothing, and ruining her belongings. Not to mention the stress and inconvenience. I would have taken pictures of everything, probably even video. Did she have anything for her records when she submitted her claim? I hope so.

      1. Me, too. But, unfortunately we’re not talking about us. Also, I would like to make a note. It wasn’t nearly $3K, as the previous person stated. It was $2071…much closer to $2K. 😉

    1. I agree.  I can easily believe that her clothing costs that much. Brooks Brothers men’s suits run around $1000 each.  Six suits=6k, plus shirts, ties, cufflinks, undergarments, etc.  A male exec could easily have 8-10K worth of clothing in a suitcase.  2K is very reasonable considering the circumstances.

      When American lost my Dad’s garment bag with one suit, they ponied up 1.5K without any fuss whatsover.

      1. Carver, lost is easy; but damaged because they got wet, well ???

        Article 17 of the Montreal Convention has this “out” clause:

        However, the carrier is not liable if and to the extent that the damage
        resulted from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.

        I can assure you the AA will argue that clothes that cannot get wet (or washed in water) are fragile in nature and the pax must take extra precaution to secure them since the nature of air/ground handling includes working under rain and snow. 🙂

          1. You don’t have to argue common natural occurrences, I think. Just look outside Miami, London and Paris. It rains.

          2. I have flown into major airports that don’t have them, so plan for the worst and hope for the best!

          3. …which are pulled off during loading/offloading. 

            A suitcase that fails to protect its contents during a 5-10 minute exposure to the elements is the wrong choice for air travel. 

          4. So then you agree that if it was left unprotected outside for hours (which is far more plausible) then the OP has a strong case.

          5. If she was using a sensible type of suitcase, and she can prove it was left outside for hours, then yes. But how does she know it didn’t get wet during offloading in London?

          6. She didn’t know right away. She writes that she discovered that later. Most likely someone  told her that.

          7. Depends. Hardsided luggage made of plastic is still made, but not as common these days as ballistic nylon, which is generally cheaper, lighter, and easier to find.

            Now I’ve seen dry-sack style duffels with wheels and telescoping handles, but I’m not sure that someone traveling on business is going to be using one. Maybe someone planning on climbing K2 or Everest.

          8. I hope nobody’s planning on climbing Everest/K2 in fashionable, dry-clean-only outfits!

          9. The one time I flew out of Miami, it was coming down hard. Anything left outside for five minutes would have been completely soaked inside.

          10. If Wensley is playing the Montreal Convention card to trump AA’s own rules, then the lack of a water-is-wet warning in Tips&Info is not going to win her the case. 

          11. 1) What makes you think AA even followed its own rules here?  (@LFH0:disqus cited the actual rules in the very first comment)

            2) Why warn about plenty of much more obvious things (“Never check a bag that doesn’t completely close”)?  It’s certainly not obvious (or even accurate) that SOP is to leave luggage standing outside — uncovered/unprotected — in the rain.

          12. Also remember the maximum limit for damaged luggage under Montreal Convention is 1000 SDR. AA [magnanimously] ups it to 1131 SDR or about $1740. She’s gonna have to prove the damage in court and she better have filed a written claim within 7 days she got her luggage or all bets are off.

        1. As an attorney I’d tell AA, “Good luck with that”.  There are numerous hearty fabrics like wool which shouldn’t get wet.  Any decent men’s suit fits into that category and would hardly be considered fragile in nature.

          Besides, what you quoted is limited to a defect in the baggage. That section says nothing about the nature of the items contained therein.

          1. That’s why I said she should sue. She might get a sympathetic judge in small claims court even if AA asks her “why didn’t you keep your dry cleaning stuff under plastic”? Just note the max SDR amount she can sue for.

          2. She has to file small claims in the county where the airline is headquartered.  Then she has to come back on the date of the trial, hoping it doesn’t get postponed.  Beeen there, done that!  There is time off work, fees, hotel costs, airline or driving expenses, meals, that so many of us give up when distance is an issue.  Now if you live locally that is a whole other ball game. 

          3. Bodega, she has more latitude with the venue when it comes to the Montreal Convention.

            But I have a feeling she did not file a WRITTEN CLAIM within 7 days, so she may be SOL.

            Some real savvy travelers know their rights. Unfortunately, not too many want to be educated about their rights. They would rather argue.

            This case would have been a great opportunity to discuss the Montreal Convention but it went on a tangent rather quickly. Too bad.

      2. Imagine if someone is transporting a Brioni suit.  That’s some serious coin.

        And it can all be easily protected with a waterproof garment bag.  Even a fancy one can’t be more than $200.

        Heck – you can even find disposable plastic Ziploc style bags designed to keep garments dry.  They might not survive being submerged in water, but they’ll survive a heavy rain just fine.

  11. Sue, sue, sue!  What an easy case…  the judge is going to be practically phoning it in on this one. 

    And I hope that the OP will let Chris know how it ends.  Could you print a follow-up if/when you get one, Chris? 

  12. It seems to me, more and more, the airlines are just taking the stance of, “Just ignore it and it’ll go away.”

    These guys hide behind their own interpretation of the rules and, when called on it, just go hide, period.

  13. You choose to fly, then you choose to be irritated by the worse operating system in the world. Never, ever fly on a code share or domestic airline from the US! They DO NOT CARE! Sue in magistrate or small claims court and stick with it. Revenge is just a great feeling when it is against a major carrier.

  14. Why does it seem like the the victim is on trial here. AA should not have misplaced e luggage, delivered it to her two days late, or allowed the suitcase to be soaked. Even the best suitcase left out in pouring rain will leak. While some suitcases are water resistant, they are not waterproof and meant to be left out in the rain!

    1. Still – if one is transporting thousands of dollars worth of clothing that can be ruined by a good rain soaking, then why not simply protect them with a real waterproof bag.  You can even find those that fit in regular luggage and just protect the most valuable items.

      1. I would have assumed that any regular bag purchased would be sufficient to protect its contents during normal handling by airlines, and even reasonably foreseen mishandling by airlines. 

        If that statement is true and if the bags and contents were soaked through, this was due to the unforeseable mishandling of the bags and the OP could not be expected to protect against it.

        That would be my argument to the small claims judge.

        1. Not sure about that.  I bought a carry-on sized Samsonite upright suiter at an off-price store. Let my parents borrow it for a trip and they must have checked it in.

          The corners weren’t protected by rubber or plastic bumpers like most luggage, and the nylon was visibly damaged.  A little more of the same kind of handling and it would have probably ripped right through.

        2. You would think, but HA damaged my new soft sided luggage to the point of no repair.  There attitude was that they weren’t responsible so I do understand what the OP is dealing with.

        3. Good argument but those large zippers would let water in a heartbeat. All my luggage are from Eagle Creek Travel Gear (warranted for life). I still use my Ziploc Big Bags for everything inside it (although Eagle Creek sells a great line of Pack-it plastic packing cubes). I travel to SE Asia, a tropical region, regularly so I am assured my bags will be wet. Frankly, they are already probably wet when I depart from JFK if it rains.

          I worked for FedEx for almost a decade. I understand baggage and package handling very well. I can’t understand why people will not put their stuff inside plastic bags inside luggage or boxes. They should know better. Buy clothes from Amazon or a decent store online. They will be inside a plastic bag first then a carton box.

          This isn’t rocket science.

    2. Totally agree with you. There’s some good advice offered here on keeping things dry, but to take the extra leap and blame the lady for not using the right kind of suitcase, plastic-bagging everything, etc. is absurd.  

      Sometimes the “Super Traveler” comments get old. Great to know there are these supreme beings who’d never let anything like this happen to themselves because they’ve got every possible contingency covered. And, of course, if we don’t spend 6 months prepping for a flight like we were Columbus voyaging to the New World, it’s completely our fault if anything goes wrong. 

      1. Sometimes that is exactly what packing feels like – Columbus’s Voyage to the New World !  I have run construction projects with fewer what ifs than some family trip packing recently.  It really is time for the airlines to take as much responsibility as UPS, Fedex or even the Post Office and deliver our luggage intact at the end of the flight.  These guys deliver paper cardboard boxes in reasonable shape nearly every time. Can airlines please try!?!?!

        1. Guess you didn’t see the broken box from UPS that was left in the rain at my house.  Even FedEx seems to be joining the mishandling party. 🙁

          I do agree that the airlines have responsibility to get us our luggage to us at the end of our flights, in one piece and nothing missing from it.

          1. Bodega, FedEx is really composed of many divisions since they purchased different companies. The GROUND HOME Delivery part is not the original FedEx. It was RPS or Roadway. Most of these home delivery folks are self employed contractors and come with a different colored logo (Blue and Green). IMO that part of FedEx is pretty lousy. The  Express division (Purple and Orange) is the good one. Totally different corporate culture.

      2. But so do the complaints on many of the letters to Chris.  This doesn’t apply to the OP, but many people don’t take responsiblity when they do or don’t do things correctly.  You do need to think ahead and prepare for everything.  To not accept that, adds one to the bottom of the heap with the rest of, it’s not my problem, let some else handle it group. 

  15. I guess there is something to be said for the rain protector over suitcases. I have seen my own carry on bags left in the rain as I watched from the window. Nothing got soaked, but they weren’t there long enough.
    American is out of line on this one. Maybe she could get one of her lawyer friends from the businesses she is associated with threatening to take AA to court. Lawyers know how to add on value to sue for.

  16. I’m probably the 117th posting on this subject… and what might be said has already been said. 
    We’re always reading complaints and see brickbats being thrown. I do want to tell a consumer friendly story about British Air.
    My wife was flying to India where she was going to lecture and her baggage contained some very beautiful salwar kameez gowns of silk, some with silver thread.  BA left the baggage out in the rain, and a number of the gowns were ruined; the colors weren’t fast and bled color on to one another.  She purchased new replacements plus two pair of shoes in the hotel store.
    She explained all this in a letter to British Air and a check for the full amount was sent in one week with a letter of apology.
    That’s how to run and airline.

  17. Have never had a problem with a baggage or medical claim. The company that Chris recommends on his website is very forthcoming, and there are only 1 or 2 pages. I recently filed a medical claim, and was reimbursed the full amount in 2 weeks. I agree that the airlines should allow more $$$ for damages, but it’s not gonna happen. We just protect ourselves when we travel and so far..fingers has worked out.

  18. American is morally bankrupt as well as finacially. While no American based airline shines in todays world, American has consistantly been at the bottom of the list.Stay away from American & you will possibly be better off.
    Fly a foreign based airline next time. You will be happier.

  19. My golf bag LITERALLY had tire tread marks and Northwest said there was no clear proof they had liability.  And then they pointed out the fine print that said they had no liability.  Scum.

  20. CORRECTION: The Montreal Convention Maximum Liability for Luggage did increase to 1,131 SDR (Approx $1750) last 2009. Most of the websites out there are still posting 1000 SDR. The US DOT fined United $20,000 just last August 2011 for using the old 1000 SDR limitation in their printed ticket wallet. Now we all know why airlines have to post the 1131 SDR Liability Limit.

  21. i was an airline employee in the 90’s, and during that time our airline was in bankruptcy (as AA is now) – we were very strongly encouraged to save the airline as much money as possible even if it meant losing a customer (everyone knew this was a very short-term approach, but it was still the policy) – i bet the employees handling these claims have been given the same direction we were

  22. I am a female business traveller.  If my luggage were left out in the rain for two days, my clothes would be a mess and I would be livid, but nothing would be RUINED, just in need of cleaning and pressing.  However, all airlines’ attitude toward problems, seemingly always taking the shortest, rudest route to a response, is another topic.  Why can’t they hire customer service people who can read and compose a relevant response?

  23. I dunno…If the suitcase was just “wet” because it was left out in the rain…Seems like its kind of a thing that happens.  It’s not like the airlines can control rain.  Perhaps they “COULD” have covered it with a “tarp”…but…really now.  IF her suitcase was on TOP of the other 200 bags then maybe HERs would have been the only one ruined.  I’ve had my “cheap” suitcases rained on before.  They were “loading” the bags when suddenly a “downpour” happened with lightening and the baggage guys “left”…they did so suddenly I suspect they were given “orders”.  (I was already on board sitting by the window watching my bag get soaked).  Some of my clothes were a “little” damp but not a huge deal.  I never thought about suing the airline because of rain attributing to “wet luggage”.  Was the bag left at the Miami runway all alone for a couple of days?  Weird since they freak out if a bag is left alone for 10 minutes inside the airport.  Sounds like she doesn’t need new clothes…she needs new luggage…maybe the $300 is a little low although.

    Can I ask…what would have happened if it started to rain while she was waiting for her limo?

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